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TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: 27 October 2017

TITLE: Transcript Drive with Raf Epstein ABC Melbourne

TOPIC(S): High Court decision


RAF EPSTEIN:
Special Minister of State and a Senator for Victoria too. Joining me now is Senator Scott Ryan. Scott Ryan, good afternoon.

SENATOR SCOTT RYAN:
Good afternoon Raf. Thanks for having me.

EPSTEIN:
It’s a rubbish end to a week for the Government isn’t it?

SENATOR RYAN:
Well look, this is a circumstance that hasn’t happened before where the court was asked to test whether or not this constitutional provision applied to those who didn’t know they had foreign citizenship. The courts ruled, we respect that rule and as the Prime Minister said earlier today when he made a statement, Barnaby Joyce will run for re-election to be Deputy Prime Minister and come back to Parliament.

EPSTEIN:
There is no one in the Liberal Party or the Labor Party who has fallen foul of these rules, do you think that says something about the way the National Party and the Greens are run?

SENATOR RYAN:
No, I think in all honesty Raf, the previous case that had looked at this looked at people who knew they had foreign citizenship. This case was dealing with people who did not know they had foreign citizenship. That, in laymen’s speak, is the difference. The High Court has now established a very clear principle. The Government is dealing with that. Malcolm Turnbull will take over as Minister for Agriculture and Water, a portfolio part of which he had during the Howard government.

EPSTEIN:
I just saw him get signed in on my television, yes.

SENATOR RYAN:
Other ministers will take over communications and regional development. And Barnaby Joyce will run for re-election in the by-election that will now be held on Saturday, 2 December in New England, which is Armidale, Tamworth, Inverell in northern NSW.

EPSTEIN:
They are simple questions though, aren’t they, Scott Ryan? In the Liberal Party and the Labor Party, they ask candidates ‘were you born in Australia, were your parents born in Australia?’ If there’s a ‘no’ to either of those questions, they do some digging and they renounce citizenship. The Nationals didn’t apply enough rigour.

SENATOR RYAN:
Well I think, with respect, in both cases, with Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash – and I just came from speaking with Fiona and her staff earlier this afternoon – they didn’t know they had foreign citizenship. I think Fiona Nash explained that to the Senate when these people referred themselves to the High Court. This wasn’t something that was uncovered. They referred themselves and let the court make a ruling. Unfortunately for Fiona Nash, with the way the Senate works, she won’t be coming back unless she runs at a future election. Barnaby Joyce has a chance to put himself before the people of New England and I’m hopeful and confident they will send him back because he is such an effective advocate for regional Australia.

EPSTEIN:
It would be legitimate, or not, for Labor to get up a vote on, say, a Royal Commission into banks while Barnaby Joyce is not there. There is no Member for New England at the moment. There is no rule stopping them trying to do that. In your mind, is that a legitimate thing for them to do?

SENATOR RYAN:
Some members of the Labor Party seem to be saying they will try and create chaos in Parliament. I don’t think the public will reward that. There are still 75 members of the Government in our 149 Members of the House of Representatives so with the Speaker having a casting vote there is still a Government majority there.  I note that Cathy McGowan put out a statement earlier today saying she intended to support the Government on confidence and supply so it’s business as usual with a by-election happening on December 2.

EPSTEIN:
Bit of value judgement if I can, Scott Ryan, as Special Minister of State, would it be legitimate for Labor to put up a bill, for example, to request a Royal Commission on the banks?

SENATOR RYAN:
Well look, it’s up to others to determine legitimacy. I’m an advocate in politics, I think if Labor try and cause chaos or do what they often do in Parliament, I think the public will frown on it. That’s a matter for the public to determine.

EPSTEIN:
How does the Government feel at the end of this week? They must be a bit, well they can’t be happy.

SENATOR RYAN:
Just personally, I feel for the staff. There are a lot of people involved here, for all the parties and all the Senators and Members involved.
I feel very disappointed for Fiona Nash, who genuinely did not know, as she explained, there was a family estrangement and she wasn’t aware of the citizenship for the entirety of her adult life. So on a personal level, I feel sorry for those who discovered something that excluded them from Parliament.
But it’s business as usual, the Government’s got to keep legislating its agenda. It’s got to keep governing. We’ve got to act on electricity prices, our strategy will continue to go forward, and Barnaby has made clear that he regrets the people of New England being put through a by-election, but he is going to put himself forward so he can be sent back to represent them.

EPSTEIN:
Is there going to be tension between the Liberal Party and the National Party? If Fiona Nash has been kicked out of the Senate by the High Court, the woman who replaces her, the next woman on the list, is a Liberal because of the way the Coalition has designed their Senate ticket. That means there will be an extra Liberal and one less National Party Senator in your chamber. Is that going to create tension?

SENATOR RYAN:
No, I don’t think so. I feel very sorry for Fiona, but I think John Howard once said, ‘politics is governed by the iron laws of arithmetic’. In this case, it will likely, but not certain – the Electoral Commission still has to conduct a recount after the court orders it – that a Liberal will replace that position. But the Coalition is harmonious, we work together, we’ve got joint policies and we all feel for our colleagues.

EPSTEIN:
I just want you to have a quick listen to what the Prime Minister said a few months ago. He was very firm in Parliament on which way he thought the High Court would go.
[AUDIO CLIP]
Scott Ryan, did the Prime Minister make a mistake when he said that?

SENATOR RYAN:
I think the Prime Minister was expressing a desire. I certainly hope that was the case. But as he made clear today, the court’s made a decision. We have an independent judiciary, we respect it, we are going to act upon it, we are going to have the by-election, but we are going to continue governing.

EPSTEIN:
‘Will so hold’ is not a desire though, it’s over-reach isn’t it?

SENATOR RYAN:
The House of Representatives is a place of intense debate. But I think it is fair to say that this isn’t the outcome that Barnaby Joyce, or I, desired. But we are judged on how we act in circumstances where we don’t get our preference. We saw that with the Prime Minister today, I think we saw that with Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash all taking this in their stride and dealing with the circumstances that politics throws at them.

EPSTEIN:
Might it have been better to have Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash out of the Cabinet while their status was undetermined?

SENATOR RYAN:
I don’t think so. The rule we have when it comes to Members of Parliament, when they are under question and they are referred to the High Court – and I think it’s important to remember here, they referred themselves, they referred themselves, the Government also referred them to the High Court – it has always been that you remain a Member of Parliament unless the court so determines otherwise. That’s always been the way the rules worked. It’s worked in earlier cases in this Parliament, with Bob Day and Rodney Culleton out in Western Australia, and I think that respects the independence of the court and the process it adopts.

EPSTEIN:
Will Barnaby Joyce win in New England?

SENATOR RYAN:
I hope so.

EPSTEIN:
Do you think he will?

SENATOR RYAN:
I’m quietly confidence, but by-elections are like elections, you don’t take anything for granted and Barnaby’s never been one to take his own patch and particularly the community he grew up in, for granted.

EPSTEIN:
Senator Scott Ryan is Malcolm Turnbull’s Special Minister of State. He wasn’t expecting this question but we are going to be talking about it in a moment. So Scott Ryan, take off your politician’s hat, put on your cultural critique hat.

SENATOR RYAN:
I’m aware of my limitations.

EPSTEIN:
Why, in Marvel films – we are going to talking about the third Thor film – why are there consistently images of well ripped, very good looking men? Who is the beefcake for? Is the men or the women?

SENATOR RYAN:
You’ve thrown me with that, but I actually haven’t seen the Thor films. They’ve got the Hemsworths, I’ve seen Captain America and some of those. I don’t know. Take an audience poll, they’d give you a better response than me guessing what it’s for.

EPSTEIN:
Fair enough. Thanks for trying. I appreciate your time.

[ENDS]

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